When does a blip become crisis? Because Everton’s season took yet another downward turn this week to crank up the fume levels among the supporters. And I’m not talking about Ronald’s Christmas tree.
Everton did fantastically well to somehow turn in an even worse performance at Southampton than they did against Swansea the previous week.
The team looked utterly bereft of confidence, belief and ideas. Indeed some of the players looked like they have already given up on their Everton career and are simply going through the motions until January.
Despite a run of just one win in eight league games Everton are still, somehow, seventh. However, their poor form has eroded the buffer built up by their fine start. Defeat this weekend could finally see the Toffees slide down to a position more befitting of their current abilities.
Koeman is clearly counting down the days until January, where he is expected to extremely busy. But that has left the team in a sort of awkward holding pattern; with the Dutchman churning out the same team each week when it is increasingly apparent only half of them have a long-term future at the club.
The lack of effort and desire at St Mary’s last weekend was startling, none more so in conceding a goal after less than sixty seconds from their own kick-off.
It was frankly embarrassing and does little to boost spirits ahead of an imposing run of festive fixtures.
The single strand of hope I cling to is the that the arrival of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United may spur the team – and the fans – into action.
Leighton Baines admitted earlier this week that Goodison has become an easier place to go to for opposition teams. The onus, of course, is on the players to get the crowd going by playing dynamic, entertaining football.
But the supporters also have a responsibility to lift the team, even if two years of dull, uninspiring performances have sapped us of all energy and enthusiasm.
A collective effort is needed if we are to jolt the team out of their worrying slump.
When Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 Jose Mourinho was reportedly interested in succeeding the Scot only to miss out David Moyes.
It’s claimed some of the Old Trafford hierarchy had reservations over the Portuguese and the controversy he sought – often deliberately – to try and achieve success.
Mourinho eventually ended up back at Chelsea and although he helped deliver the title in 2014 the wheels fell off spectacularly last campaign, tarnishing his reputation as a result.
Therefore his appointment as United boss this summer had more than a whiff of desperation about it, as the Red Devils desperately seek to move out of Fergie’s considerable shadow.
Mourinho’s star has definitely waned over the past few seasons, so if he wasn’t good enough for United in 2013 why is he now?
Despite the reservations he was certainly backed in the transfer market. In came Zlatan, Pogba, Bailly and Mkhitaryan, but results haven’t automatically followed.
United have won just twice in their last 10 league games, while their tally of 20 points is their lowest after 13 games since 1990.
Progress in the Europa League and EFL Cup have softened the blow, but run-ins with referees and two touchline bans have done little to ease concerns about the Mourinho’s fiery temperament.
As a result the 53-year-old travels at Goodison Park is as much need of a league victory as Everton.
James McCarthy is expected to return to the squad after missing last weekend’s loss at Southampton with minor hamstring strain.
That leaves long-term injury victims Matthew Pennington and Muhamed Besic as Koeman’s only absentees.
Besic is progressing well in his recovery from a cruciate knee ligament injury and could return by the start of February.
For Manchester United Wayne Rooney misses out through suspension after collecting his fifth yellow card of the season against West Ham in midweek.
Evertonians will be relieved to hear that news given Rooney is just two goals away from breaking United’s scoring record.
Mourinho will also be without Eric Bailly with knee injury while Chris Smalling is likely to miss out with a broken toe.
Liverpool aside not many games spur the crowd in action than Manchester United, especially with the combustible Mourinho on the touchline.
I’m hopeful that ‘big game factor’ will be enough to drag the team out of their malaise and somehow rediscover the levels of earlier in the season.
It is certainly hope more than expectation though as the month of December looks increasingly like a damage limitation exercise before the transfer window finally opens.
Predicted XI: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, Gueye, Davies, Bolasie, Barkley, Lukaku.